‘Naomi Osaka’ on Netflix Is a Humanizing Look At a Superhero

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It’s rare to watch a documentary about an athlete while they’re currently at the top of their game, but Naomi Osaka could be just that. Well, perhaps this particular athlete hasn’t quite reached the top of her game just yet, as she continues to ascend in every way, on and off the tennis courts.

The new Netflix series, comprised of three, easily bingeable 40-minute episodes, follows the tennis phenom throughout 2019 and 2020 as her impact within the sport is just as impressive as her impact on the world. Directed by Garrett Bradley and produced by LeBron James and Maverick Carter’s Uninterrupted, this is the kind of series that will recruit new tennis fans. I, for one, knew of Naomi but don’t follow the sport closely. Before I’d even finished watching, I was already following her on Instagram. So whether you’re obsessed with the sport or just vaguely familiar, Naomi Osaka will get you excited for the next time we’re able to watch this woman in action.

It’s also a reminder of the power that young people have to change the world. Being in your early 20s is not just about making TikToks — for Naomi, it’s about bringing awareness to important causes, taking care of her physical and mental health, and separating her worth as a human being from the job at which she’s exceptionally talented and famous for doing. In fact, Osaka’s real impact on the world probably won’t be felt for years to come, but this documentary is certainly a good starting point to understanding her.

If her recent headline-making decision to focus on her mental health left you scratching your own head, take a look at this series. And it’s not the only aspect you’ll get clarity on: those Black Lives Matter masks she wore last year at the US Open; her background, her culture, and her family; and her perspective on her job and how that factors into the world around her — it’s all discussed here.

As she’s speaking, to her family at home or to reporters at a press conference, I noticed she inserts plenty of “ums” and “likes” into her speech, the way most people her age do. However, that is contrasted with her exceptional talent on the tennis courts, and only emphasizes the reminder to all watching that even superheroes are normal people. Also: be sure to have tissues nearby for when her touching friendship with Kobe Bryant comes up.

If anything, this series will hopefully remind viewers to think before they tweet, especially when it comes to criticizing athletes, but double especially ahead of the Olympics. Even after watching this incredibly intimate documentary, the media attention and scrutiny of these athletes is unfathomable. The series does a good job showing how Osaka copes with the immeasurable pressure put upon her to perform all around the world, aided by the support of her family and team around her, and how she remains not only more enlightened than most of us, but a true class act in every way. We’re lucky that we get to watch this woman on the court, but this interesting, insightful, and inspiring documentary also shows how lucky we are to get to know her in this way.

Stream Naomi Osaka on Netflix

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